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PCs for the Masses

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DQI Bureau
New Update

With less than a PC for every 100 Indians in the country, we are not quite

geared up to face the digital revolution. A little more than half of the PCs

sold in the country last year went to just the top four metros. The situation is

further compounded by the fact that a large majority of Indians are illiterate.

And it is really ironical that this comes at a time when India is at the

forefront of the IT revolution and in the year when Forbes has put the Nasscom

president, Kiran Karnik as its face of the year, an Indian who epitomizes the

Indian IT industry. At the recent UN information summit, the Indian minister for

IT and communication Arun Shourie suggested a way to overcome the huge digital

divide that separates the country’s haves and have-nots. While stressing on

the critical role that PCs could play in educating the masses, he estimated that

a single PC could help educate as many as 300 to 400 Indians. He also suggested

that the import of discarded PCs could come as a huge step in bridging the gap.

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The underlying principle behind Shourie’s idea is that the computing

revolution must reach the masses, and that will happen only when the cost of PC

comes well within the average Indian’s reach. According to senior government

officials, the government is likely to consider the important recommendations as

proposed in the national computer hardware policy. The policy was drafted under

instruction by the PMO and suggests that the sales tax on all IT and electronic

hardware, including components, be 4% and that the special additional duty or

SAD levied on imports be phased out.

The policy also suggests that special incentives be given to companies that

are willing to set up manufacturing base for hardware in India. It also suggests

the drafting of plans to identify markets for export. Whether or not these

incentives and plans come through and the PC prices come down, the government’s

efforts in this direction are seen as too little too late. But we can safely say

that we have yet not missed the bus!

MOHIT CHABBRA in New Delhi

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